Meet the promoters hosting inclusive club nights across the UK and Ireland - Features - Mixmag

Meet the promoters hosting inclusive club nights across the UK and Ireland

The nights so crucial to clubland

  • Jasmine Kent-Smith & Sherelle Thomas
  • 8 March 2018

The point of inclusivity is to make everything equal. Even though it's 2018, women are still drawing the short straw when it comes to going on a night out. From the group of lads down the front who persist on moshing on the dancefloor to the creepy bastard who follows you about even after you’ve said “NO!” 300 times, clubbing for women – and other marginalised people – can be really fucking tedious.

Luckily, promoters and collectives across the UK (and the rest of the world of course) are working to create safe, empowering and fun spaces for marginalised clubbers and, you know, anyone who wants a good time.

We reached out to a slew of crews to find out why their nights are so crucial to clubland, and what more can be done to support intersectional clubbing spaces in our scene.

UNITI is a London-based collective helmed by a pair of artists pushing underground, experimental sounds via a party and a label. Established in 2016, UNITI bosses Englesia and GANX describe what they do as a “platform for womxn, nb, and LGBTQ+ creatives, while offering events with inclusive safer space policy”.

The pair realise the inherently political nature of their parties and stress the community nature of a UNITI event. The night, alongside its counter-cultural contemporaries discussed later in this list, offers up a truly open space for dancers looking for liberation.

They added: “Women, non-binary and LGBTQ+ people have been underrepresented on line-ups in the underground dance music scene and our aim in starting UNITI was to provide a platform for these people, and to create a space that was a homage to the time when the underground spaces for subculture were an inclusive, welcoming, fun escape from the real world.” JKS

UNITI turns 2 on March 9, with the launch of Englesia’s EP ‘'ANGELISE : first metamorphosis'. Tickets and info available here

Founded by Sarah Fewtrell and Marnie Hamilton, New Scenery is a party platform with a charitable edge. All proceeds from its events are donated to charity, with each party in aid of a different cause. With every New Scenery line-up championing women and non-binary DJs and producers, the night’s affinity for low-end sees dancers put through their paces, with an onslaught of talent and musical skill from a whole host of big names and rising stars such as LOFT, Rui Ho, Ziúr and resident Lockhart seen at each and every night.

When discussing the inspiration behind the event, Sarah explained: “New Scenery came about through need for a more diverse, safer clubbing experience. Navigating your way through music scenes as a woman or non binary person can be really difficult. A failure of representation behind the decks means your presence is often question and is limited to standardised sexualised archetypes.” JKS

New Scenery’s next party takes place on March 16, with Mobilegirl B2B Mechatok, Martha B2B Syymstress and more. Tickets and info available here

Pro-choice Irish and Northern Irish dance music promoters Room For Rebellion describe themselves as a “political party”, as they continually push for the reproductive rights of women in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and challenge archaic abortion laws. The five women - Isis O'Regan, Cait Fahey, Hollie Boston, Anna Cafolla and Jess Brien - who helm the event are committed to throwing wildy fun, reactive parties in Dublin, Belfast and London.

O’Regan explains: “I wanted to start something that could engage with the Irish diaspora here as well women and girls back home. Room For Rebellion protests against the 8th Amendment, which bans abortions in nearly all circumstances - ignoring our UN human rights,” while Jess Brien adds that “our policy has always been to champion fresh, new artists who have something to say.”

When discussing the nature of the term “safe space”, RFR’s Hollie Boston says that “promoting a safe space is more than just a tagline, it's a responsibility all promoters should strive towards to create a better environment for anybody and everybody who are proud to represent themselves, regardless of race, sexuality or gender.” JKS

Room for Rebellion is gearing up to host a triple party on March 23 in London, Belfast and Dublin featuring the likes of Moxie, Solid Blake and Object Blue. Tickets and info available here

South West promoters Thorny “create platforms for the underrepresented voices of Bristol and beyond.” Working as an artist-led collective, the raucous, inclusive multi-faceted operation hosts gigs, shows and, above all, euphoric parties designed to create maximum liberation for all who attend, while offering up a space for new or marginalised acts.

Thorny Artistic Director Jo Bligh says that “Thorny was actually born out of a need for spaces for people on the margins in Bristol to socialise, and also the need for underrepresented artists to have a platform. These two things didn't really exist in Bristol at the time: there were a lot of white boy punk nights that I found a bit dry. So after a while of hearing people – myself included – moaning about it I decided to take matters into my own hands.”

Thorny’s focus on inclusivity and representation stems from a belief that, “for someone to feel included they need to see someone they relate to on stage.” Sharing a selection of bucket lists acts they would love to see at a Thorny night, Bligh said: “I would love Beth Ditto to play at one of our nights, I think she's the epitome of femme empowerment. I also think SOPHIE would be amazing -- our crowd would lose their shit if she came to Bristol!” JKS

Catch Halcyon Veil’s Mhysa at Thorny on April 21. Tickets and info available here

Started in a house in the middle of East London, Pxssy Palace is one of London's most forward-thinking, radical, beautiful nights that deserves to be celebrated in more ways than one.

“Oh god, It's like a Pxssy Palace in here,” co-founder Nadine Artois recalls overhearing at one of her house parties. There were 10 girls in attendance – as well as the residence’s 10 cats. Their night became one of the most sought-after house parties with people wanting to pay just to get in.

Nadine Artois and Skye Barr just wanted a space their friends could dress they we wanted and listen to the music we wanted to without the stress of being harassed. Taking the next step of moving their parties from their home was an unconsciously empowering decision.

After the success and wholehearted nature of their parties, PP thought they would be able to maintain the love away from home. However Nadine was sexually harassed at Pxssy Palace night. Not only that, the energy was lost from their nights - this resulted for the Pxussy Palace to introduce new policies regarding create a safer space for womxn and femmes of colour. Nadine approached the amazing Munroe Bergdorf (whom she was already friends with) to be involved.

"Clubs can be overwhelming. We just wanted to look out for everyone," Nadine explains, “and create something where we could get everything out of a club night."

This year Pxssy Palace celebrates its second anniversary and looking through their Instagram you can see a wealth of happy, carefree faces living their best lives. But Nadine explains that there still lot that needs to be done to ensure people have a good time.

"We have had problems in the past [where] we have had things in place but you can't control everyone… We have had people try and sabotage the work we do.” She recalls the time when a guy who had been contacted not to come to one of their events turned up early to confront them about it. "He spat in one of our organiser's faces… We were warned about him because someone called up to say that he had sexually assaulted them in the past".

Now if you're reading this and still have a lack of understanding as to why nights like Pxssy Palace are needed, maybe you're a part of the problem. During my conversation with PP, Nadine cites a recent article in Vox containing statistics that reveal that 80 per cent of women have been sexually harassed or assaulted in some shape or form.

Thankfully they haven't had any problems in the last 12 months. And luckily they are now in the position to vet their security staff. They also introduced a new scheme for trans women of colour. "We are an inclusive night, an intersectional night and we are [thinking] about the safety of our trans friends," Nadine explains (with the rise in trans women being killed, we’re not surprised).

Pxssy Palace is a breath of fresh air that is needed in a stuffy room full of testosterone, white men and gak farts. ST

Donate to Pxssy Palace’s campaign to provide trans women with a safe journey home from a night out

SUGAR is run by the revolutionary gal-dem and was started a year ago as a way of interacting with an already large online audience. Antonia of gal-dem explains that creating SUGAR was to "introduce another alternative to the London club scene"

"The DJs have to be women of colour" and for the music policy, anything goes. Representing the best that club culture has to offer, gal-dem's SUGAR is a space where people are able to be their true, authentic selves. With "normal" club spaces becoming dominated by big groups and drunk bastards throwing themselves over DJ booths asking for 2-year-old Drake songs, SUGAR is a night where, as Antonia says, "people can have a good time".

"A lot of my friends come because our night actively supports POC, trans and queer culture. Other nights don't consider that because they don't have to deal with [problems faced by marginalised people] in their everyday life. People like BBZ and Pussy Palace centre around people who need to be centred for and not marginalised."

Although they have thrown a few parties now, they have had to overcome a lot in a short space of time. "We had a night where one of the bouncers did not have a clue. He was hitting on women and making them feel uncomfortable. He got a bit of a speaking to. And he let his friends in because there were so many women there." Antonia says.

"We always strive to create a safe space; our current place [The Yard in London] understands us and what we are about. But there will be one or two people who will slip through the cracks and might infiltrate. And we have had to eject people."

Nights like SUGAR are so important to making sure POC, trans and queer people are protected. From their online presence to bringing through new and talented DJs like Lil C, Fauzia and Rabz (BBZ), SUGAR’s effervescent energy and the cause are inspirational. ST

Listen to gal-dem latest monthly show on Reprezent Radio here

BBZ is one of the most exciting queer POC collectives around today. They support QTIPOC (queer, transgender, and intersex people of colour) creatives, and DJ's and have been providing a much-needed access to art spaces and musical development for women of colour. BBZ's work is a source of celebration in a world which often fails to represent women of colour in the best light.

"When we first started BBZ it was very queer-centric, it was a space for black queer women and we were not thinking about the music scene," co-founder Nadine explains. "The scene has shifted dramatically since we started BBZ," says fellow promoter Tia. "I had no concept of the amount of queer people of colour, especially femme identifying, who are DJs so I am really excited that there’s so many I have been introduced to."

What makes BBZ so incredible is that it is a direct response to a lack of QTIPOC dancefloors and the lack of representation for QTIPOC DJs too. The space they offer to their QTIPOC audience is a “Brave Space”, as coined by Tia. "We like to say brave because we can’t ensure that every space is safe. But it’s a space where everyone is on the same wave, you won’t be inappropriately spoken to. if you feel uncomfortable you have the backing from us and the venue.”

Nadine explains further: "I feel that our spaces are all about celebration and being your full self. Everyone in the room has to uphold that. People rely on the hosts but for BBZ we rely on our guests to uphold that.”

Having stringent policies in place now allows them to avoid horrors which they encountered in the early days of BBZ, such as the group of white men who caused so much trouble that BBZ chosen venue had to close early, with the police called.

BBZ have also faced blatant misogyny and racism within club culture with one venue manager telling them that “black lesbians don't drink, therefore we wouldn't make money at the bar.” BBZ resident Shy One explains that “black women are a myth to most of these people who own these spaces. We have money and like to drink, we turn up and like to party. We are the same [as everyone else], just a different style.”

BBZ is a movement. It is a political statement and they are helping to change the lives of people for the better. They and others will be the saviour of club culture. And the much-needed catalyst fighting against the dominance of white dominance in club spaces. ST

Listen to BBZ every 1st & 3rd Friday at 5pm on Balamii

Northern party crew Come Thru has been killing the alternative club game since 2015. Locking in the likes of 8ULENTINA, Lil C and Hipsters Don’t Dance’s Kazabon for previous parties, the positive dancefloor promoters will end on a high later this year, with Come Thru #10 sadly marking the event’s end. But that doesn’t mean it still shouldn’t be celebrated, with the Come Thru gang explaining over email: “Positive Parties is our general motto, and we strive for inclusivity on both sides of the decks. We try to get the dancefloor moving with a variety of bangers, bringing something new to Leeds every time we party.”

Discussing the rise of inclusive events, and the responsibilities held by said party promoters, they added: “People take what they learn at events into their circles and their everyday lives, so responsibility and accountability are paramount issues that should be taken seriously. It's good to see that these processes are on people's minds and in their everyday conversations.” JKS

Come Thru #9 takes place Saturday March 10 at Live Art Bistro, Leeds with Ase Manual, Lady Amz and more. Tickets and info available here

Meat Free is a female collective based in Manchester. Alice Woods, Lucy Ironmonger, Tasha Carter and Steffi Allatt (Blasha & Allatt) run the night with the ethos “electronic music is for everyone, so leave your differences at the door.” Citing that the concept was “born out of a backlash against big, impersonal sanitised clubs and line-ups and as a means used to give control back to the punter”, the girls have also launched a party series called Under One Roof for people with learning disabilities to diversify the dancefloor even further. With the likes of Tama Sumo and Steffi playing out at the night, Meat Free is shifting perceptions of techno seriousness through community focused rave experiences.

Discussing the rise of the Meat Free name, the promoters explained: “It was something really different that helped people to feel part of a community, as well as remember our nights. From then it's grown quite organically and everything from our bookings, our attitude on the door welcoming people in, to our politics on social media, hopefully goes toward creating that safe space.” JKS

Catch Steffi at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen on April 20 for the next Meat Free affair. Tickets and info available here.

Bitch, Please! is every bit as deliciously dramatic as the name would suggest. Fusing fiery, raucous sets from the likes of Honey Dijon and Artwork with drag queens, inclusive dancefloors and festival takeovers, the event has changed the game for the LGBTQ+ scene in the West Country. Run by Liam John and Travis Derrick, AKA artist duo ZenZero, John stressed the importance of being able to “create a space for all walks of life”.

The origins of Bitch, Please! are simple. The party was conceived due to a lack of day events happening in Bristol that represented LGBTQ+ ravers, as John explains: “Unless you’re hoping from Pride to Pride over the summer, well there just wasn’t anything. We wanted to create a space where anyone and everyone would come to celebrate an alternative side to our community.” JKS

Promoters ZenZero, alongside Steffi, Mr Price and Butch Queen will be taking over The Loco Club in Bristol’s Temple Meads on April 5. Tickets and info available here

Gash Collective is an Irish party collective providing a platform for female identifying and LGBTQ+ DJs and producers based out of Dublin. Founded on International Women’s Day 2016, the duo behind the night describe the collective as being a place to “shine a light on marginalised talent and encourage people to get involved through safe space initiatives, carefully-curated parties and events, as well as (free!) production and DJ workshops”, adding that “everything we do is very focused on promoting visibility and accessibility.”

Inspired by the likes of Discwoman and Female:Pressure, Gash Collective aims to continue championing underground artists throughout 2018, citing DEBONAIR, Object Blue and Elena Colombi as dream party additions. By promoting female visibility and transparency between clubbers and the clubs themselves in terms of offering safe spaces to dance, the ethos of Gash Collective remains firmly rooted in promoter responsibility and proper good partying. JKS

Gash Collective’s International Women’s Day Party takes place in The Bernard Shaw, Dublin on March 9. Ellll (founder of Gash) and Lolz, (party-thrower at Gash) will be joined by Saerlaith, Caskré and Syn. Tickets and info available here

Goldsnap is the all black female collective hailing from London, UK, who hosts names like Shy One, K2RAH and Kiddy Smile. Their focus is to nurture a community of QTIPOC music lovers and they have a good relationship with BBZ and Pussy Palace, which helps them build on their plans for the future.

Co-founder Mwen explains: “For me personally, I started to feel a tangible community. It’s quite an addictive feeling when you know what it feels like to have your own space. It’s quite hard to not want to keep making that.”

Club culture for Mwen is complicated. "We don't have to talk in intellectual terms when really it’s very simple. We just want to have a dance and space for us." When club culture is so geared towards the white male, how can you create this? Goldsnap's work outside of their parties focuses on organising DJ workshops for queer, trans, intersex people and people of colour who find it hard to access courses like the one they are providing. The main priority is creating a wider network of amazing women at the forefront of music.

"By doing the training we can nurture people and build people up and we can meet other people like ourselves and other people can meet other people – we can continue to grow together."

Mwen, who is a DJ and producer, explains the frustration in not seeing QTIPOC in the club and behind the decks. "Where are my people?" Mwen laughs as she explains the lack of diversity on the dancefloor. "We might not have found each other yet so let's send out a beacon." ST

Glaswegian event Tomboy is a female-focused hip hop and grime night featuring live performances from female rappers and MCs.

Celebrating hip hop and grime’s talented female presence, promoter Catriona Reilly explains: “Tomboy was a chance to explore more of the UK scene as well as female grime artists. I think it was also really important to showcase female and LGBTQ+ rappers and MCs in Glasgow as we have an amazing live hip hop scene but it is primarily male at the moment. A lot of the artists that are booked for Tomboy are London-based so it gives them a platform north of the border which otherwise might not exist.”

The night offers up an alternative to what many consider to be a standard grime event. Open, friendly and undeniably female, Tomboy is a prime example of why inclusivity within subcultural scenes can inspire new waves of artists, ravers and promoters to join in and do it for themselves. Catriona says it best, stating that “I think with more women, people of colour and queer people getting into DJing and running their own nights it creates a new standard as well as platform which can start people's careers. By breaking down the barriers to entry into the club scenes it shares the responsibility and puts pressure on people to create more diverse spaces.”

Fellow Tomboy founder Mara Bragagnolo added that the night was created because she believes that “female rap can be incredibly empowering for women because it's a music genre that stands for female liberation, strength and confidence.”

Tomboy will be hosting an epic after-party as part of the Glasgow Short Film Festival on March 17. Tickets and info available here

Jasmine Kent-Smith is Mixmag's Weekend Editor, follow her on Twitter

Sherelle Thomas is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter

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